I recently came across a Brookings institute article on global happiness level. The premise is simple (and well-documented from other books on the subject) — the human psyche towards happiness is incredibly adaptable. People even in the poorest, most war-ravaged parts of the world have happiness levels as in the US because they have adapted to their environment.
The same is true with users of any software. People have a fantastic coping mechanism to be “complacent”. People “like” their existing email provider even though it might put 30-50 spam emails in their inbox each day because they have grown used to it. They can’t imagine anything different.
But every once in awhile you’ll find someone pissed off with the status-quo. They’ll either be doing something on their own to make it better, or just vocally complaining about it. THESE are the people who are your early adopters — the unhappy people. When you first put a new product, it’s not going to be perfect. There are going to be major parts you’ll need to either add or change . Don’t test it against the mainstream user as they don’t know there is a problem. Ask your friends and check discussion boards and Twitter for the people who are not happy with the status quo and test your product with them first. You’ll learn a lot more about the unserved problem and ways to fix it.
Then once you have nailed the solution, go after the mainstream “complacent” user and show them just how much they are missing.